A promise represents the sacred bond that we have in our various relationships. Broken promises are tantamount to broken relationships and deteriorate our connection. The Scriptures look at promises in various forms, such as oaths and covenants, made between leaders and their community and between leaders and other leaders. These serve to maintain order in society and build trust between partners.
Oaths, covenants, and vows connect us. They are used in contracts, and they ensure that we keep our word. However, Jesus promises us, and because of the trust built up with His disciples and, by proxy, us, we are assured that the promise of the Holy Spirit is not just idle talk but a living presence of God that watches over us individually and corporately as the Church. Jesus addresses the disciples about the change that is coming and how they need to prepare in John chapter 14.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 14:15–21.
The open bookend of the promise begins with a connection between love and obedience. Jesus preempts the promise by imploring the followers of God to remain obedient to God’s law. This reminder is that any promise, oath, covenant, or contract is made among multiple participants and that there is a responsibility to carry out the contract by all parties. We might be tempted to skip to the part where Jesus promises us Holy Spirit, but Jesus reminds us that we can’t passively receive, but God requires our participation. Love and obedience don’t come easy for us, but if we look at what we receive, it seems very little in comparison. When we look at any relationships that don’t have a promise or oath connecting them, we can see love and trust; therefore, how much more love, trust, and honor can we give our Heavenly Father?
While the covenant begins with our trust, the bulk of the promise details God’s part in caring for us. Just as Jesus walked with the disciples, gave them teachings, and cared for them by providing them with a better way to live, even when Jesus no longer walks with them, there is a promise of another helper in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The promise that those who trust in God will receive the Holy Spirit and not be left alone speaks to us poignantly today as a loneliness epidemic has arisen.
Even in a world that has more opportunities to connect than any previous generation, people spend less time connecting with one another. The trend started with the advent of social media and got increasingly worse as we became people that increasingly moved our lives online. Even the biggest outdoor advocates also ensure that they have a dynamic online presence. However, the online presence ensures we see only in part, not the whole, of a person. Therefore, people are often broken into pieces and oversimplified to the point that they lose humanity and become only a topic or issue. We think we are connecting, but in reality, we ensure that fewer people get access to our true selves. We disconnect from reality and exchange for a false reality.
God calls us back from disconnection through the promise. This promise has nothing to do with introverts or extroverts because we all need connection. The Holy Spirit provides a connection to the Almighty God while at the same time connecting each of Jesus’ followers to each other. This promise provides opportunity and access to the cure for loneliness, a deep connection to one another. Jesus welcomes the whole person, inviting us into a relationship with God and the church.
The promise also extends to cure us of sin, which causes the disease of loneliness and brokenness. Ultimately, our sin broke our connection to God, which created the need for Jesus to save us. Therefore, Jesus reminds us that through His resurrection, our sin no longer keeps us away from a relationship with God; therefore, we cannot allow our sin to prevent us from connecting with one another. How many relationships have left our lives because of unresolved conflicts where we have not sought reconciliation? Jesus came to die for those irreconcilable differences. Thus, we cannot harbor bitterness and anger for each other because God has called us to do something more. For bitterness leads to suffering and loneliness, but God’s promise leads to connection and joy.
Jesus closes the bookend of the promise by reminding us that God’s love is available to everyone. We are called to obedience and to love God, but that obedience and love are met with an abundance of love that comes to us through a connection with the Almighty God that is embedded with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit dwells with us, we must remain at peace with all people and strive for connection and reconciliation with people, just as Jesus brought us to hope through His death and resurrection.